Induction and initial training
It is best practice to give an induction to everyone who is entering a new job. The induction is likely to be the new recruit’s first chance to meet colleagues, find his or her way around the premises and to learn about your organisation.
Everything will be new and unexpected issues may arise. The employer may have to make adjustments to ensure a person with disabilities is introduced into a new working environment in a clearly structured and supported way, with an individually tailored induction/training programme if necessary.
Some people with disabilities may take longer than other employees to settle into a job. It may be appropriate to allow a longer induction period than usual for some employees. This is particularly relevant when reasonable adjustments are being tested to find out if they are working as intended.
There are a number of ways in which an induction and initial training process can be made more accessible to a new employee with a disability. Employers should consult with the new employee and with their employment worker support worker, to agree any adjustments that may be necessary. Examples could include:
- It may be beneficial to assign another member of staff as a mentor to support the new employee for a specified period of time, to help them settle in and get to know their new work colleagues.
- External agencies can also help and if the person is employed through a supported employment scheme, they can benefit from support on the job as well as mentoring. Where an employment support service has been involved in the recruitment process, an employment worker will visit the workplace to learn about the job. They then work out the best way for the person with a disability to be inducted into their post and agree any adjustments with the employer.
- In some cases an induction period will include the new employee shadowing or being directly supported by a more experienced employee. This may work particularly well for a person who has a learning disability.
Most organisations have ‘unwritten rules’ about interaction between colleagues (such as who makes the coffee, where people sit at breaks, when it’s okay to interrupt someone in their work). Some people will come into a workplace and pick these rules up quickly and easily; others may find it more difficult, for example, someone who has a learning disability or a person who is on the autistic spectrum.
Be aware of the ‘unwritten rules’ of your workplace and be prepared to explain these to a new employee with a disability. Do not assume employees will automatically pick these up by themselves.
Sometimes a taken-for-granted workplace practice can put a disabled person at a disadvantage. It will be important in these circumstances to recognise that an adjustment is required.
Managers should ensure that disabled staff are consulted about their individual needs for evacuating the building in a safe and dignified manner, in advance of any emergency. Company risk assessment should be updated to take account of the particular support needs of any new employee. This is a straightforward exercise for any experienced Health & Safety practitioner and should not present a barrier to a person with a disability taking up a role.
When induction involves off-the-job training and assessment, there are various adjustments that can easily be made. Examples include:
- Putting people in smaller groups than is usual.
- Asking people questions rather than giving them a written test.
- Giving people longer to go through a training manual.
- Putting training material into accessible formats.
- Allowing an employment worker to attend the training.
- Making adjustments to training methods to suit individual needs.
It is important to respect an employee’s right to confidentiality about their disability or long term condition and any support needs relating to it. Everyone is entitled to have their personal information kept private. People with learning disabilities, in particular, often have very bad experiences of personal information being shared about them and this has sometimes resulted in harassment and abuse.
Employers should think carefully about what information they need to know, how much needs to be shared with other employees and how to respect people’s confidentiality. They should only share information that is necessary for other employees to know about an employee and agree with the employee what and how information will be shared.
These are a number of techniques that may be useful when supporting a person who has a learning disabilities to learn a job:
- Breaking the job down into separate tasks.
- Providing instructions in a format accessible to the person with learning disabilities. Ask a support agency or an organisation specialising in accessible communication to help you with this.
- Make sure you give instructions at a pace that is suitable for the employee. Check that the person has understood and, if necessary, repeat instructions or show them again how to do a task.
A number of SUSE members are expert and experienced in supporting people who have learning disabilities and their employers in the workplace. SUSE can link employers to appropriate providers in their local area.